Sunday, 22 April 2018

Bacon and Smoked Paprika Crusted Chicken Kebabs

We were having salad for dinner, using up some vegetables, along with Corn and Zucchini Pancakes to use the half zucchini in the fridge, but I felt that the meal needed something else. I had a couple of chicken breasts...remembered the small amount of basic rub in the cupboard...and found some bacon in the fridge!

This is an unusual way to crust chicken, but it worked out better than I had hoped it would. Pureeing the bacon allowed the fat to render quickly, and this in turn dissolved the brown sugar in the rub. It created a spicy, sweet and smoky crust on top of the chicken. I know it is hard not to turn the kebabs when grilling, but the bacon crust will slide right off if you do, so restrain yourself, it is worth it.

The crust also adds moisture to the chicken, preventing it from drying out.

Put the bacon into the food processor. You will need:

4 rashers of bacon, diced

Process until the bacon has turned into a paste, stopping to scrape down the sides if needed.


3 tablespoons of a basic rub

Process until combined.

Cut 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts into chunks. I cut each one into 9 pieces.

Scrape the pureed bacon and rub out onto the cutting board.

Lightly sprinkle the chicken with smoked paprika, on all sides.

Divide the bacon-rub mixture between the chicken pieces, gently pressing it onto one side of each piece.

Skewer the chicken, keeping the bacon-rub sides facing up, as shown.

Place the kebabs onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the barbecue or grill until smoking hot, and lightly grease.

Place the chicken kebabs onto the oiled grill, turning the heat down, and cook until the chicken is fully cooked.

I closed the barbecue, and moved the kebabs around occasionally to prevent sticking and to ensure even cooking. DO NOT TURN THE KEBABS!!

When the chicken is fully cooked, the bacon-rub mixture will be cooked as well. The bacon fat will melt, and the brown sugar in the rub will dissolve in the fat, creating a spicy crust.

Remove from the grill and allow the kebabs to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

I served the kebabs with a mixed green salad, with goat cheese, avocado, grape tomatoes, cucumber and some warm Corn and Zucchini Pancakes.

  • Instead of pureeing bacon, consider using sausage meat, removed from the casing.
  • My basic rub consists of brown sugar, paprika, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, kosher salt.
  • The smoked paprika added extra smokiness and heat, but also helps the bacon puree to stick to the chicken.
  • This can be used as a stuffing for chicken breast, a turkey breast roast, pork tenderloin or chops, or as a crust for cod, halibut or scallops. Stuff lobster tail with the bacon mixture before baking it, or use it to stuff mushrooms or sweet peppers.
  • Chilling the chicken and bacon solidifies the bacon fat again, which prevents it from sliding straight off the chicken. The kebabs can be prepared a day ahead, or even assembled and frozen.
  • This can also be baked, at 375F, with or without the skewers.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Honey Oat Bread

My youngest daughter is lactose intolerant and has started making her own oat milk. When she was here for the weekend she made a batch of oat milk for me to try. Of course, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to use the leftover, ground up oats. This bread was one of the ideas I came up with.

I will share the process we used to make the oat milk at the bottom of the post, but I will say that it is quick and easy, and a cheaper alternative than buying nut milk.

This bread is slightly sweeter than the bread I usually make, but still perfect for sandwhiches or toast.

In a small bowl, combine:

1 cup leftover oats from making oat milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Set aside until needed.

In a small saucepan, heat:

1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons honey

Remove the water and honey from the heat and stir in:

1/2 cup oat milk

Allow to cool until just warmer than body temperature before continuing.

In  the bowl of a stand mixer, combine:

1 tablespoon yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
the warm water, honey and oat milk

When the yeast is foamy, add:

the leftover oat milk oats, oil and salt


2 cups wholewheat flour

Mix on low speed with the dough hook, until combined.

Continue to mix, while adding all purpose flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have a soft, shaggy dough. You will need about 4 cups of flour.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board, and knead by hand until it is no longer sticky, and is smooth and elastic.

From the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a draft free area to rise until doubled in size.

Lightly punch the risen dough down, divide into two pieces and form each into a ball.

Form the balls of dough into loaf shapes, and place each one into a lightly greased bread pan.

Leave in a draft free area to rise again.

When the dough has risen until it is almost at the top of the bread pans, brush the tops with a mixture of:

2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons hot water

Sprinkle rolled oats on top, pressing gently to make sure they stick.

Bake the bread in a 350F oven, for 45 minutes.  Remove the bread from the pans immediately and place on a cooling rack. The bottom of the loaves will sound hollow when tapped. Allow the loaves to cool completely before slicing.

To make the oat milk, soak the oats in cold water for 20 - 30 minutes. You will need just enough water to cover the oats. After soaking the oats, place them into a strainer and rinse with cold water.

Place the oats in a blender, along with cold water. Use a ratio of 2 parts water to the amount of raw oats you soaked. Add a couple of teaspoons of honey, and a pinch of salt. Blend until the oats are finely ground.

Put the mixture into a nut bag, or triple layered cheesecloth and strain the liquid through, squeezing gently to remove as much oat milk as possible.

Store in the fridge, in an airtight container, for about 5 days. The oat milk will separate; give it a shake or stir before using.  

  • This bread can be made without making the oat milk first. Instead of the oat milk leftovers, soak 3/4 cup rolled oats in water until the oats have softened and swollen. Drain any leftover water.
  • Instead of wholewheat flour, you can substitute oat flour.
  • Instead of using oat milk, you can use all water; you can also use part cow's milk, part water.
  • The loaves can be frozen.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Prosciutto, Pear and Blue Cheese Tart

What a tasty way to use some frozen pastry, a chunk of blue cheese and two very ripe pears! This tart was a contrast in textures and tastes...the prosciutto was crisp and salty, followed by sweet, juicy pear and tangy blue cheese, and then sweet, soft caramelized shallots.

This was our dinner, together with a green salad, but it could be served for lunch, or as an appetizer or canape if it is cut or made in bite sized pieces.

Before you start, thinly slice 5 shallots, and cook slowly in olive oil until they soften and caramelize. This can be done a day ahead if you like. From there on it's quick and easy to assemble, and bake.

Line a 10" tart shell with a removable bottom, and prebake the crust.

I used the pastry from the post

Set the tart shell aside, and turn the oven temperature up to 375F.

Spread the caramelized shallots over the bottom of the baked tart shell.

Sprinkle the shallots with:

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Peel and core:

2 ripe pears

Cut each pear into slices that are about 1/4" thick.

Lay the slices on top of the shallots and basil.
Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper.

Crumble the blue cheese over the pears:

2 - 4 tablespoons blue cheese

Loosely drape the prosciutto over the tart:

5 thin slices of prosciutto

Make a custard by whisking together:

2/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place the tart shell onto a baking sheet and carefully pour the custard over the filling.

Bake at 375F for 10 minutes.
Turn the heat down to 350F and continue to bake until the custard is set and slightly puffed. Test by piercing the middle of the tart with a sharp will come out clean when the custard is set.
Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Carefully remove the tart from the pan, and cut into wedges to serve. I served it with a green salad and citrus vinaigrette.  You can serve this tart hot, or at room temperature.

  • If you do not have pastry in the freezer, or time to make pastry, a purchased dough or crust will work just as well. Other pastry options include a nut crust as found in the post Fig, Brie and Prosciutto Crostata with a Pecan Crust or a Roast Garlic Shortbread Quiche Crust.
  • Caramelized onions can be substituted for the shallots. If I am making something where caramelized onions or shallots are required I often make a lot more than needed, and plan on a second meal with them later in the week. They will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.
  • I used basil as a fresh herb...try fresh thyme, rosemary or chives.
  • Pears are just one fruit choice. Others include apples, fresh figs, peaches or plums.
  • I like the tang and intensity of blue cheese with the sweetness of the pear, but you could also use Cambozola, Brie or goat cheese.
  • If you want a richer custard, use whipping cream or half and half instead of milk. 

Friday, 30 March 2018

Fettucine with Smoked Mussels, Broccolini and Grape Tomatoes

For Valentine's Day I made a Thai Red Curry tomato soup and garnished it with steamed mussels. On impulse I bought extra mussels, and had my husband smoke them for another time. They have been calling me from the freezer ever since.

When I made cannelloni a couple of nights ago I had extra fresh pasta, so cut it into fettuccine and dried it. These two items were the inspiration for this dish.

Instead of  using Basic Tomato Sauce for a base, I used some of the heirloom cherry and grape tomatoes I had in the fridge, and combined them with fresh parsley, garlic and capers to make a chunky, fresh tomato sauce. This requires minimal cooking...just enough to warm the tomatoes and bring out the sweetness. This was perfect with the smoky mussels.

The dish needed something green, and the half bunch of broccolini left in the fridge was perfect...cut into shorter lengths and blanched in the pasta cooking water to lessen the cooking time in the pan with the mussels.

This was easy to make, and full of bright, bold flavours and textures. The smokiness from the mussels was not too overpowering, and I managed to use up quite a few food items in one tasty meal!

In a small bowl, combine the following:

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon capers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Set aside until needed.

In a heavy bottomed pan, using a bit of olive oil, cook:

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of salt

Cook until the onions start to soften.


Blanched broccolini, cut into 3" lengths

Cook for a couple of minutes, until the broccolini is hot and almost as tender as you like it.


1 cup smoked mussels

Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often, until the mussels are heated through, and the broccolini is tender.

As soon as the mussels and broccolini are ready, add the tomatoes, garlic, capers and herbs that you prepared earlier.


1/4 cup pasta water

Leave on the heat just enough to warm the tomatoes.

Drain the fettuccine and toss with a bit of olive oil and chopped fresh basil.

Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Portion the fettuccine into shallow bowls...

.....and divide the mussels, broccolini, tomatoes and the rest of the sauce between the bowls.

  • Smoked mussels can be bought in cans, in grocery stores or fish shops. They are usually packed in oil, and this oil can add a lot of flavour to your pasta.
  • You can also use fresh mussels; add them to the pan along with the pasta water, cover and allow them to steam open. Serve them in the shells. Place a bowl on the table for people to discard the shells.
  • Feel free to use other shellfish...scallops, clams, crab, prawns. 
  • If you do not have grape or cherry tomatoes, use ripe tomatoes, finely chopped.
  • I was originally going to use fresh basil, but felt that it might clash with the mussels. Parsley has a milder flavour, so did not compete.
  • Capers, lemon and garlic are all excellent flavour with seafood...I used a lemon infused olive oil to toss the pasta, which added another layer of flavour.
  • You can also use white wine in the sauce if you have some...I used pasta water.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Chocolate Pear Cake with Mascarpone Filling

This rich, dense, moist and very chocolatey cake came about when I had a few things that needed to be used: 3 ripe pears, a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar, sour cream and some mascarpone cheese.

As I had no dark chocolate of any kind in the house I bought a slab of dark chocolate with 72% cocoa butter, and used some of that. This really intensified the chocolate flavour and richness.

The pears added moisture and sweetness, while the sour cream upped the richness factor even more. Despite the sugar and pears, this cake was not overly sweet to the taste, but dense, rich and screaming chocolate from every bite!

My idea to add a layer of mascarpone to the centre did not worked out quite as planned....instead of staying as an obvious separate layer, it melted and blended into the batter a bit, but this was not a bad thing at all.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream together:

6 ounces softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar

When the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, add:

2 eggs, one at a time
1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together the dry ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


1/3 of the dry ingredients to the mixer, and mix on low speed until just combined.


1/4 cup sour cream

Mix until combined, and then scrape the bowl down.

Add the remaining dry ingredients in two additions, alternating with 1/4 cup sour cream.


3 ripe pears, cored

Add the grated pear to the batter, along with:

1/4 cup finely chopped dark chocolate

Mix gently until just combined

To make the mascarpone filling, combine:

3 ounces mascarpone
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Mix in:

2 tablespoons finely chopped dark chocolate

Turn the oven on to heat up to 350F. Lightly grease a bundt pan.

Spread 1/3 of the chocolate pear batter on the bottom of the prepared pan.

Gently spread the mascarpone filling on top of the chocolate pear batter, keeping it away from the sides of the pan.

Place the remaining chocolate pear batter on top of the mascarpone and carefully spread it evenly in the pan.

Bake until the cake has risen, is slightly cracked in the centre and a wooden slewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

This took around 60 minutes in my oven.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, before inverting it onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool to room temperature before cutting and serving. This cake actually tastes even better the following day, so if you can make it a day ahead, do so; the richness of the chocolate intensifies.

I served the cake with afternoon coffee, but it can be served as a dessert...simply add some whipped cream!

  • For the liquid ingredients in the batter, buttermilk, or plain yoghurt can be used instead of sour cream.
  • Instead of pears, try grated apple, zucchini, boiled or roasted (not pickled) beets. You will need 2 cups of whichever alternative you choose to use.
  • If you have chocolate chips, use those.
  • Mascarpone is not something that I buy very often, and I had actually been trying out a recipe to make some with leftover whipping cream. I was happy with the result, but needed to use it for something, and it was a very small amount. 
  • Cream cheese can be used instead of mascarpone.
  • The mascarpone can be flavoured with lemon or orange zest as well.
  • This cake can be made in two loaf pans if you do not have a bundt pan.
  • In the event that you have any cake left, it can be frozen...wrap it well.